Rare Delftware Vases Reunited and Saved for Dutch Nation

Posted May 5, 2015 at 11:44 am in Art, Interiors, News

delftware ss3The Delftware flower-holders  of King William and Queen Mary

TWO rare Dutch delftware flower-holder figurines representing William III, Stadtholder of the United Netherlands and King of England, Scotland and Ireland, and his English consort Mary have been returned to the Netherlands. After 40 years in two separate private collections in France and Belgium, the royal couple was reunited last year when The Gemeentemuseum, the Hague acquired the tall flower-holders which experts rank among the best examples of Dutch delftware anywhere in the world.

delftware SS1The flower-holders decorated as they were intended to be used

No other comparable flower-holders representing full-length court figures or marital partners are known to exist anywhere in the world. Each holder is 42.5 cm in height and is dressed in the latest fashions of the 17th century, with the male figure wearing an orientally inspired Japonse rock (banyan) and the woman, a mantua (court gown). These costumes, in combination with the jewellery and coiffure, determine that  the couple can be identified as William and Mary.

Mary was in love not only with Dutch delftware, but also with flowers like anemones, carnations, ranunculus and tulips, which at that time were  very expensive and considered exotic. Luxurious delftware flower baskets and tulip vases were a favourite way of showing them off, especially among royalty. These days both tulips and Blue Delft are widely recognised as symbols of the Netherlands.

delftware ss 2The figurines with flowers

 Benno Tempel, director of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, says, “They are not only one of the Netherlands’ most important acquisitions of Dutch delftware for many years, they are also a powerful symbol of the economic prosperity of Golden Age Holland and of the nation’s rich royal history. It’s like discovering a new picture by Vermeer or Rembrandt.”

This acquisition of this previously unknown type of flower-holder represents a major addition to the national art collection and cultural heritage of the Netherlands. It is also a significant addition  the Gemeentemuseum’s long-standing Dutch delftware research project.

by Caroline Simpson

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